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The Tyranny Blog

The digital burial ground for tyrannical clichés.

“A Cheerful Philosophical Disquisition”



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A kind review from the Bookworm Room. Excerpts:

“Jonah points to numerous more subtle liberal tropes that many of us conservatives, especially those of us who are neo-cons, actually think have substance. They don’t. Using his trademark wit and erudition, Jonah telling explains how these expressions are conversational dead-ends, meant to convince conservatives and independents that conservative ideas are small-minded, mean-spirited, greedy, and unkind.”

“…Jonah takes us on a factual and philosophical journey to appreciate the flawed intellectual thinking that nevertheless is so effective in shutting down debate.”

“This is not light fare… I don’t regret the effort it took me to read this book, just as I don’t regret a vigorous workout. When I’m in process, I’m simultaneously working hard and enjoying myself; and when I’m done, I have the slightly euphoric feel of someone who has accomplished something important and beneficial.”

More here.

Ernest Borgnine, RIP



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More thoughts soon. I hate the word “icon” but he was one for me. One of the hardest working men in Hollywood — ever.

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A Half Book Review...



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One of my favorite bloggers has some very kind words for half my book.

More later.

Hello C-Span Viewers



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Thanks for the nice feedback on my appearance on C-Span’s After Words. Many of you have asked for my longer response to Joe Klein’s review, briefly discussed in the interview. Well, here you go.

Oh, and for those interested, here’s the video of the whole interview.

Blurbageddon



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For those interested, here’s a highlight reel from the reviews:

From Rob Long’s Review in National Review:

 

“In his new book, The Tyranny of Clichés, Jonah Goldberg pulls the Mother of All Gingriches. He enumerates the top two dozen liberal clichés — about the separation of church and state, the living Constitution, political dissent, that sort of stuff — and peppers them into tatters with research and argument and wit.”

-       Rob Long, National Review

“He’s reminding us what this struggle — for a country, for a way of life, for a future of opportunity and progress — is all about.”

-       Rob Long, National Review

 

From Roll Call Review:

 

“Goldberg…treats the subject seriously but never gets so enraged by the inanities he is recounting that he loses his sense of humor.”

-       John Bicknell, Roll Call

“If the critical and liberal (is that one category or two?) reaction to Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism” is any indication, few liberals will read “The Tyranny of Clichés.” They’ll ridicule it without reading it — which is too bad, because it contains useful lessons they could apply.”

-       John Bicknell, Roll Call

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From The Weekly Standard Review:

 

“… the real need goes beyond restating the obvious; it’s finding a way to make the obvious engaging. And here, Goldberg succeeds admirably.”

-       Mark Hemingway, The Weekly Standard

“…it’s quite a feat to write a polemic about byzantine ideological disputes and political semantics and make it thoroughly enjoyable. If you’re interested in giving a precocious student or open-minded liberal an explanation for why they should take the trouble to understand conservatism, this is the book to give them.” 

-       Mark Hemingway, The Weekly Standard

From The New York Journal of Books Review:

“The usual reasons to read Jonah Goldberg are either because you love him or hate him. With his latest book, a potential third reason emerges: To insure that you are the first in your carpool, chatroom, or coffee klatch to fire his latest barrage of un-PC commentary at unsuspecting do-gooders.”

-       Kenneth Allard, The New York Journal of Books

“. . . hilarious . . . scathing critiques of American political elites and their reigning conceits.”

-       Kenneth Allard, The New York Journal of Books

 

#more#

 

From The American Spectator Review:

“Jonah Goldberg, a prolific and often penetrating conservative columnist and commentator, has declared war in his turn on what he calls the “tyranny” of clichés, especially as that tyranny is practiced by liberal ideologues.”

-       Aram Bakshian, Jr., The American Spectator

“Readers who enjoyed Mr. Goldberg’s first book, Liberal Fascism, will find plenty to appreciate in The Tyranny of Clichés. The same high energy, nimble argument and welcome flashes of humor that helped to make Liberal Fascism a best-seller are on ample display here…”

-       Aram Bakshian, Jr., The American Spectator

“The worst of both worlds results when a really dumb writer deliberately tries to bend words, and Mr. Goldberg is at his best when deconstructing and dispatching the resultant liberal blather.”

- Aram Bakshian, Jr., The American Spectator

Jonah Goldberg is annoyed by the right things… that is to say, the things that are most wrong about the smug, arrogant, and willfully ignorant liberal mindset that has been rejected by most ordinary Americans but still dominates much of academia and pop culture. Here’s hoping that Jonah Goldberg keeps annoyed—and keeps writing—for many years to come.”

-       Aram Bakshian, Jr., The American Spectator

From the New York Post Review:

 

“as Jonah Goldberg demonstrates in his important new book…hacks of both the elected and published variety are often unaware that the clichés they deploy often mean the very opposite of what they think they mean.”

-       Kyle Smith, The New York Post

“The left loves to delve into the rule book and mend the world’s ills by regulatory tinkering, but even when they’re expressing what they believe to be simple, universal truths, Goldberg finds the flaws in their thinking. When liberals are talking, he shows us why even the truisms aren’t true.”

-       Kyle Smith, The New York Post

 

From Commentary Review:

 

“Goldberg…here continues to hone his role as an intellectual provocateur of American liberals. And he has also done the conservative layman a great favor by laying bare the true purpose of these maddening shibboleths of the left.?

-       Jonathan Neumann, Commentary

 

In a sense, Jonah Goldberg’s engaging and cant-free second book is not making an argument in itself; it is trying to facilitate argument that otherwise would be stifled by liberal cant constructed on a shaky foundation of self-satisfaction and ornamented to a fare-thee-well by intellectual conceit.”

-       Jonathan Neumann, Commentary

 

From Andy Ferguson’s cover story on Weekly Standard

 

“Dazzling” – Andy Ferguson, Weekly Standard (cover)

From Jim Geraghty Morning Jolt:

 

“Jonah’s dismantling of the “wisdom is found in the political center” fetish deserves to be a seminar at journalism conferences for years to come…”

-       Jim Geraghty, National Review Online

 

“I am hoping that when he finally hangs up his laptop at the end of a long career, he’s filled an entire shelf on all of our bookshelves.”

-       Jim Geraghty, National Review Online

From RedState Review:

 

The Tyranny of Cliches does an excellent job in puncturing several progressive delusions about their ideology, including the one about how progressives don’t really have an ideology in the first place; you want to read it.”

-       Moe Lane, RedState.com

“…good information, good but not breezy presentation of said information, and it will be good ammunition for people tired of listening to the same regurgitated talking points at holiday dinners.”

-       Moe Lane, RedState.com

From Redstate Review:

“[Tyranny of Clichés] is a quick, entertaining and informative book; full of useful

arguments, insights and food for thought.  At its most basic it is a challenge to conservatives to fight back and not allow the left in this country to continue to make lazy, ideological loaded statements and arguments in the name of pragmatism and a fake “just the facts, ma’am” attitude.

-       Kevin Holtsberry, RedState

Jonah is a serious writer who wrestles with important issues that lie at the heart of so many of our political, cultural and societal problems.  He understands the rot at the heart of liberalism and yet the unwillingness of so many to deal with the actual intellectual, philosophical and historical truths at the root of this problem.”

-       Kevin Holtsberry, RedState

“ In a humorous and engaging way, TOC forces you to unpack and re-think some of the fundamental cliches of our time.”

-        Kevin Holtsberry, RedState

 

  From Breitbart Review:   “…with ‘The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas’…not only has Goldberg (editor-at-large for National Review Online) avoided the sophomore slump — in many ways he has an even bigger triumph on his hands.” -       John Nolte, Breitbart.com   “”Tyranny” is perfectly calibrated for [2012]…and will therefore be an indispensible political weapon in this election.” -       John Nolte, Breitbart.com   “‘Tyranny’ is like an instruction manual for countering this, and not just for the talking heads who debate the likes of David Gregory on NBC, but for anyone looking to pull a reasonable liberal or Reagan Democrat into daylight.” -       John Nolte, Breitbart.com

“…entertaining and informative…”

-       John Nolte, Breitbart.com

“Goldberg’s deconstruction is so scholarly and complete, no one who isn’t intentionally manipulating our language will ever hear this nonsense in the same way again.”

-       John Nolte, Breitbart.com

“The timing of the release couldn’t be better…you buy a copy, read it over the summer, and come out for the Labor Day presidential push much better prepared for what will be the key battle in this election: the verbal jiu-jitsu of lies we’re about to have to cut through in order to persuade a few thousand independent voters to come our way.”

-       John Nolte, Breitbart.com

“…the primary reason to recommend ‘[The] Tyranny [of Clichés]’ is The Writing. I should send Jonah a bill for the three yellow highlighters his prose cost me. Goldberg is not only the rare writer with a real voice (who makes you burst into laughter regularly), but his ability to persuasively bring together history and wit and quotes from “Animal House” into incredible packages of knowledge and insight makes “Tyranny” a page-turner you don’t want to end. 

 

 

 

 

From the Winnipeg Free Press Review:

“While the book’s subtitle will probably inflame the sensibilities of those who haven’t gotten past the title of Goldberg’s earlier book, a fair reading of The Tyranny of Clichés is both educational and entertaining…”

-       Bill Rambo, Winnipeg Free Press

“He elucidates the historical and philosophical background of sayings and ideas whose provenance is often wrongly taken for granted.  Goldberg refuses to be thrown by slippery arguments that move back and forth between “don’t be ideological or dogmatic” and “be pragmatic.”

-       Bill Rambo, Winnipeg Free Press

“Goldberg peppers intellectual depth with peppery prose.”

-       Bill Rambo, Winnipeg Free Press

“Goldberg is especially effective at dismembering arguments that cherry-pick science, and the appeal to the magical epithet “scientific” to forestall arguments.”           – Bill Rambo, Winnipeg Free Press

 

 

From Townhall Review:

 

While Goldberg is certainly not the first conservative pundit to point out the brevity and inadequacy of these kinds of liberal arguments, his book takes painstaking efforts to actually work through every tacky cliché.”

-       Jacqueline Otto, Townhall

“What I most enjoyed about this book, is the subtle subplot [Goldberg] builds, slowly attacking the pseudo-moral-superiority that liberals enjoy in their ephemeral insipidity.”

-       Jacqueline Otto, Townhall

From Doug Wilson Review:

 

“This was a great book. Buy at least three of them, and read at least one.”

-       Doug Wilson, Blog & Mablog

 

From Chris Naron, RightNation:

 

“The only regret I have is that I didn’t buy the dead tree version…it’d be nice to have some copies to throw around to friends and colleagues this election year. In other words, you can’t borrow mine, so go buy it. And you’re all rich, so buy multiple copies.”

-       Chris Naron, RightNation

 

From Mark Hemingway’s review on Goodreads.com:

“… might be the best and most fun-to-read primer on the tenets of conservative politics since P.J. O’Rourke’s Parliament of Whores.”

-       Mark Hemingway, Goodreads.com

 

From Amazon Reviewer Craig Matteson:

 

“Funny, informative, and a fine step forward reviving vigorous political discourse in America!”

-       Craig Matteson

“…a treasure.”

-       Craig Matteson

“The history lessons are vital.”

-       Craig Matteson

“Goldberg delivers these clarifying lessons with such style and humor that they are downright entertaining. Honestly, you will find yourself chuckling.”

-       Craig Matteson

“This is not only an important book, but it is also a fun book.”

-       Craig Matteson

From NoisyRoom.net:

“Jonah Goldberg has written an incredible new book – The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas. That boy can write!”

-       Terresa Monroe-Hamilton, NoisyRoom.net

 

I love this book. It’s intelligent, cutting, entertaining and exposes liberal ideology for the dishonest propaganda that it is. Jonah is not only a brilliant author, he has a spine and tells the truth. My kind of pundit. In the daily battle against the Left, this book provides ammunition to spar with. It’s red meat for the conservative warrior.”

-       Terresa Monroe-Hamilton, NoisyRoom.net

 

 

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Need an Excuse to Smash Your Forehead on Your Desk?



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EJ Dionne Responds to His Casting Call



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As John Podhoretz noted the other day on twitter, EJ’s column basically makes the argument of my book for me. Ideology is the problem. Ideology is something other people have. Non-ideological economists all agree with EJ. And so on.

“Why Everything Sucks”



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Craig Ferguson on Youth:

The Rob Long Review



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Out from behind the firewall at last. An excerpt:

Jonah Goldberg writes as if he’s handing you a drink. You know what I mean: It’s a friendly gesture, inviting, almost conspiratorial. He writes that first sentence, and sits you down, tells you a few jokes, tops off your drink, and before you know it you look up from your empty glass, deep into his book, and you’re both laughing away like fast friends. You’re out of the crouch and well into your second belt. Suddenly, you’re not punch drunk anymore. You’re drunk drunk. Happily so.

In his new book, The Tyranny of Clichés, Jonah Goldberg pulls the Mother of All Gingriches. He enumerates the top two dozen liberal clichés — about the separation of church and state, the living Constitution, political dissent, that sort of stuff — and peppers them into tatters with research and argument and wit. Jonah Goldberg, for 277 sprightly, clever, and calmly reasoned pages, dissents from the premise of the question.

My Famous Luddism



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From a reader:

Dear Jonah,

I found it rather rich that this kid is accusing the founding editor of NRO (remind him the O stands for Online) that he’s better than you because he understands modern technology.

Made my morning.

All the best,

[name withheld] 

There Must Have Been Some Bad News For Obama Today



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Because even for the normally humor impaired folks at Think Progress this is pretty pathetic.


For the record, of course I wasn’t serious about wanting to literally beat the socialism out of young kids today. But I won’t apologize for the “misunderstanding” because there is no misunderstanding. Virtually all of these dufuses and dipwads bleating at me on twitter and in my email box know I wasn’t serious. This manufactured outrage is just a sad way to avoid my argument and distract from the bad news of the day and maybe to gin-up political enthusiasm from the sorts of “youth activists” who are easily ginned up.

Douglas Wilson On TOC



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A very nice review. This part caught my eye, though:

I enjoyed this book almost as much as I enjoyed his Liberal Fascism. Goldberg combines the best of libertarianism and conservatism in a way that is quite conducive to my taste. The only thing he is missing is the Christian foundation (he writes as a secular Jew), but his miss is a whole lot closer to the truth than the groveling that many Christians engage in when they apologize for things in Christian history that either require no apology, or which require a very different apology than the one being demanded. Goldberg is about as fair-minded as it gets. I suspect his fair-mindedenss is a function of having thought about conversion more than once.

I hear this quite a bit and I must say that it’s really not the case. I think the sources of what Wilson sees as my fair-mindedness are more likely the result of my upbringing (I was raised Jewish but my mother never converted to Judaism) and my genuinely conservative fondness for old institutions, like the Catholic Church, Catholic writers (like Chesterton, William F. Buckley et al) and my genuine love for America and Western Civilization, both of which grew out of the (Judeo-)Christian experience. If a conversion is in the offing it will probably be to a more committed form of Judaism.

Get Away Kid, Ya Bother Me



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My interview with the Daily Caller about the “Youth” has generated a lot of blowback from young people, the aging babyboomers who fetishize them and liberals who use them as easily manipulated props.

Here, for instance, is what Andrew Sullivan thinks is a sharp analysis from a twenty something. Under the headline “Hating on Millenials Ctd” Sullivan approvingly reprints this letter:

As a 23 year old, let me be the first to say that that Jonah Goldberg video, and to a lesser extent Matt Labash’s mini-rant, really pissed me off. I get it, we’re young, you guys were young once, you like to think you’re cleverer now (better than facing the possibility that you haven’t actually progressed in life), hence we’re stupid. How very clever of you.

But try for a second to look at in from the perspective of us youth. To us, the Goldbergs of this world are from a generation that has royally f*cked everything up. The debt, the economy, global warming – when was the last time a generation could say that they were leaving the world worse off than they themselves inherited it? If you were born between 1950-1970, you are the product of the ‘greatest generation’ that defeated fascism, created peace in Europe, and started the biggest economy boom in the history of the world. And what did you do with it? Pissed it away. And whilst you look forward to your gold-plated retirement benefits – Social Security, private pensions, Medicare – which you’re sure as hell not gonna give up, my friends and I will struggle to find jobs at a time when employment for 16-24 year olds is the lowest since records began (48%).

And, despite this monumental f*ck up, you have the balls to chide US just because we can use a technology that you can’t, or (gasp) we entertain the idea of voting for policies which haven’t been responsible for the aforementioned f*ck up?

Screw you.

First of all, as is clear from the video, I’m referring to young people generally, not merely millennials. Indeed, I’ve been pounding my spoon on my highchair about youth politics since I was an officially recognized young person myself. It was one of my great peeves in college and again when I first came to Washington in the early 1990s.  I’ve probably written two dozen columns on the subject over the last decade and a half.  Here’s me complaining about youth politics in 1999. Here’s a piece I wrote twelve years ago for the magazine on the stupidity of “Generation X” – my generation, btw. (Behind digital firewall, but I’ll post an excerpt separately).  Here I am again in 2004 and so on.

In The Tyranny of Clichés, after explaining, among other things, that are plenty of serious and smart young people (on the left and right) I write:

With those caveats in mind, let me just say I find the political fetishization of youth and the whole effort to create a “youth politics” or “youth movement,” alternately ludicrous and repugnant. Youth politics are the cheapest form of identity politics. They are the fake Rolex of ideological causes. At least with the identity politics of race and gender the categories are for the most part permanent. If you hire a black guy, he’s going to stay black for the rest of his life (Michael Jackson being a notable exception to the rule). Young people aren’t nearly so reliable.

Ever since the 1960s, young liberal activists have been working to convince themselves and everyone else that it is a requirement of youth to be liberal. This is a very old notion. Recall that famous line from Churchill about how if you’re not a liberal at 20 you have no heart, and if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain. Despite my almost unhealthy admiration for Winston Churchill, I’ve never liked this formulation, perhaps because I’ve always been a conservative of one flavor or another and I like to think I have a heart as well. Also, I’ve never understood why liberals are so eager to embrace this notion. “Yay! People who are ignorant and overly emotional support us! People with experience, maturity and intelligence agree with them.”

In short, I’m not “hating” on millennials because I’m older now, I’m hating on the cult of youth because I have a reasoned conservative argument against the cult of youth (heck I even edited a book dedicated to helping young conservatives). If my refusal to pander to the shallow vanities of the sorts of young people who take pride in the year some doctor delivered them, makes said young people sad or angry, that just proves my point.

Indeed, this 20-something’s feelings are hurt because I say something about youth that great thinkers have been saying for thousands of years (“Young people are in a condition like permanent intoxication,” explained Aristotle, “because youth is sweet and they are growing”).

As if to illustrate the point, he shows that he’s letting his passion overtake the facts. This kid’s demographic innovation notwithstanding,  I am not in fact part of the generation that screwed everything up as conventionally understood (though Sullivan is). I am part of the first generation to come after the great wave of screw-uppers. I’ve never been eligible for a “private pension” in my entire life (I’m assuming he means a defined benefit pension). I had absolutely zero to do with driving our entitlement system toward a cliff. I have instead advocated policies I think would reform our entitlement system.

Which is the crux of the issue, really. The culprits aren’t identifiable by their age, they’re identifiable by their ideas and actions. This generational stereotyping and collective guilt stuff is logically absurd and emotionally immature.

By the way, when I was this guy’s age, Gen Xers were saying the exact same thing about how the older generation had ruined everything and we weren’t going to get our Social Security benefits (Anyone remember “Lead or Leave”?). The problems with our entitlement system have been obvious for at least two decades and while there’s blame to be apportioned in all parties, it has been the Democratic Party (including its ranks of young liberal voters) who’ve been the most steadfast and reactionary supporters of the status quo.  

But the really telling part is when this kid goes full on brat:

And, despite this monumental f*ck up, you have the balls to chide US just because we can use a technology that you can’t, or (gasp) we entertain the idea of voting for policies which haven’t been responsible for the aforementioned f*ck up?

Screw you.

This guy thinks young liberals are voting for policies that didn’t cause this “f*ck up”?  Really? President Obama – who got over 2/3rds of the youth vote in 2008 – has added $5 trillion dollars to the deficit and refuses to recognize any reforms to Medicare or Social Security that might make it solvent for this kid’s generation. Instead, Obama and his party look to Europe for inspiration where such policies have created charts like this:

 

 

Oh and by the way, how low is this kid’s self-esteem that he cites his age cohort’s facility with electronic gadgets as a major component of his identity? Back off man, people my age are good with doodads!  And how does he know I’m not good with “technology”? Why on earth does he think I resent young people because they are quicker at hooking up a printer? Talk about balls.

It’s like a vain school girl who thinks everyone hates her because of her beautiful hair. No, it’s worse than that because at least it’s the school girl’s own hair. This kid is taking credit for the (alleged) attributes of others. It’s sad. 

 

The Quotable TOC



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The best quotes in The Tyranny of Clichés, according to Rightwing News.

TOC: The Reason Interview



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Tim Noah’s Best Effort



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In the Tyranny of Clichés, I directly criticize the founding editor of The New Republic, Herbert Croly, a half-dozen times. I openly refute arguments made by numerous liberals associated with the magazine, including Jonathan Chait, longtime “TRB” columnist and until recently a senior editor. The list hardly ends there. Indeed, the magazine itself comes up quite a few times, in large part because The New Republic, historically, is foundational to liberalism in much the same way National Review is to post-war conservatism. And so The New Republic, in a small way at least, is a central bit of evidence for the argument I make.

I bring this up because one might think that the New Republic would feel like it has some skin in the game, as it were.  So I was intrigued to hear that Timothy Noah, Chait’s successor if not exactly his replacement, had tackled my book in the latest issue.

Before we get to that, for the sake of clarity, let me briefly restate the foundational argument of the book.  I contend that liberals have deluded themselves into believing they are non-ideologues (or mere “Fact Finders” as Chait famously put it in a 2005 New Republic essay). Liberals are largely cut-off from their own intellectual history. “It is liberalism that is now bookless and dying,” wrote former New Republic owner and editor-in-chief Martin Peretz, in the 90th anniversary issue of The New Republic no less. I argue that this is a natural consequence of liberalism’s embrace of philosophical pragmatism – a school of thought significantly developed in the pages of The New Republic. Pragmatism oriented the liberal mind towards activity and power and away from ideas and principles. As I write on page 65:

The American public has soured on liberalism’s claims of pragmatism since the 1960s. People understand that it is an ideological approach, even if many liberal ideologues deny it. But they still play this game. They’re still convinced that their agenda is nonideological, focused simply on what works. This has put liberals in a terrible box. They desperately want to argue for ideological principles, but they’ve cut them- selves off from the authority of those very same principles. Herbert Croly, founder of the flagship liberal journal The New Republic and author of the Progressive bible, The Promise of American Life, responded to attacks that he and his magazine were supporting Mussolini too ardently by noting that The New Republic was “not an exponent of liberal principles.” Indeed, “[i]f there are any abstract liberal principles, we do not know how to formulate them. Nor if they are formulated by others do we recognize their authority. Liberalism, as we understand it, is an activity.”

As a result of liberalism’s cultivated deracination and its empirical pose, liberals are ill-equipped or unwilling to discuss their ideological commitments openly (there are obvious individual exceptions to this rule, of course). Instead they advance their arguments through ideologically loaded but seemingly innocuous clichés,  appeals to emotion and rank assertions of their empirical superiority. When you bring up the fact they are ideologues, they tend to change the subject. When you point out how so much of their arguments are advanced through clichés, they fall back on tu quoque arguments (i.e. you do it too!).  

The problem with the “you do it too!” charge is that it is beside the point. Moreover, I do not argue that conservatives are without their own clichés. Indeed, I say so quite a few times in the book.  For instance, I write:

I do not claim that that the conservative mind isn’t bound by clichés from time to time, or that my collection exhausts the subjects covered, never mind those not covered. But I would and do argue that conservatives are more honest about their indebtedness to ideology. We declare our principles and make our arguments more openly. My only humble hope is that what I write here helps people, conservatives and liberals alike, rethink the way they understand the world around them, and maybe enjoy themselves a bit in the process.

In short, the point is that liberalism relies on clichéd ideas as a way to compensate for the fact that liberals want to hide their ideology (this partly explains why so few Americans identify themselves as liberals). Conservatives (and libertarians), for the most part, do not play the same game because they are open about their (our) ideological commitments.

Anyway, if you’ve read the book, followed this blog, or even heard any of the countless interviews I’ve given on this subject, you’d know this is where I’m coming from.

You wouldn’t, however, get nearly so clear a sense from reading Tim Noah’s predictably dim take on my book.

For instance, read the above excerpt from the book again.

Now read Noah’s opening paragraph:

In his new book, The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas, Jonah Goldberg argues that liberals “advance ideological agendas that would expand and enhance the State’s mastery over our lives” by parroting hoary maxims and phrases. That bit alleging subjugation by the capital-S State is right-wing cant, but Goldberg’s accusation that liberals often spout clichés is so unchallengeable that I marvel he got a whole book out of it. Yet Goldberg won’t admit that conservatives often do the same. “I do not claim that the conservative mind isn’t bound by clichés from time to time,” Goldberg concedes in his introductory chapter (italics mine). But they don’t do it as much as liberals, because conservatives “make our arguments more openly.” In effect, Goldberg is arguing that liberals are more smug, and, since clichés are the lingua franca of smug people, liberals spout them more. You don’t have to be liberal to find such reasoning a bit … smug.

See what he does here. He takes my open admission that conservatives often use clichés and then says “Yet Goldberg won’t admit that conservatives often do the same.” I suppose Noah wants to hang a great deal of importance on the difference between “from time to time” and “often.” I’ll happily concede conservatives often use clichés. What they don’t often do is deny they are conservatives.

He says my “bit alleging subjugation by the capital-S State is right-wing cant.” No it’s part of a sustained argument about the ideological nature of liberalism.

And so on.

He has to play this lame game of bad faith primarily because it’s his nature but also because his real aim is to hackishly spout off about conservative clichés.  That’s fine. Though on that front, I will say that he misses another point of the book. For the most part I try to entertain and amuse the reader when I talk about specific liberal clichés. Noah does beat me in terms of concision, but he fails in his effort to entertain or amuse.

I’m not much interested in responding to them, because I find Noah’s tu quoque arguments banal and non-responsive. Besides, I think Dan McLaughlin has rebutted Noah’s “sad parade” as well or better than I could.

Still, I find it amusing and a little sad that this is the best Herbert Croly’s magazine can manage.

High Praise



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President Obama presenting Justice Stevens with the Medal of Freedom:

“Justice Stevens applies–applied throughout his career his clear and graceful manner to the defense of individual rights and the rule of law, always favoring a pragmatic solution over an ideological one.” C-Span video at 17:05.

Brother Geraghty on TOC



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From today’s Morning Jolt email (But of course, you’ve signed up already):

 

Two small confessions to make: I was elated when I first heard that Jonah’s second book, after Liberal Fascism, would be funnier and more lighthearted. This is not to say I didn’t love Liberal Fascism; you can make the argument that it is the most influential, discussed, and debated book by a conservative in the past decade.   But the man who wrote Liberal Fascism wasn’t really the Jonah we came to know and love since he popped up on our political and cultural radar screens back in 1998. I have a limited amount of time to allocate to book-reading. So I’m not often eager to read about politics in my off-hours, and I wasn’t always eager to grab and finish a dense, fascinating, detailed and intellectually rigorous review of a century’s worth of political philosophy. Liberal Fascism was fascinating, eye-opening, thought-provoking . . . but it wasn’t always a fun or quick read.

But after hearing that The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas would be closer in tone to the old Goldberg File, the next preview was less reassuring. When Jonah started describing that the book was inspired by his talks on college campuses, and that the tome was his attempt to dismantle radical arguments that are hidden in homespun aphorisms, I was initially a little . . . deflated.

Of course empty-headed college students rely on empty clichés to make their arguments; this is what makes them empty-headed! I wondered if it was a reflection of how much time Jonah spends on college campuses, that he would consider liberal clichés to be the problem most worthy of book-length analysis and counterargument. Perhaps I travel in very sheltered circles, but I don’t actually encounter many people who genuinely believe the notions Jonah tears apart in this book, like, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter,” “Violence never solves anything,” and “Better ten guilty men go free than one innocent man suffer.”

Thankfully, Jonah gets past the here’s-the-latest-vacuous-argument-that-some-nose-ringed-progressive-did-during-the-Q&A-on-my-last-speaking-engagement section pretty quickly. Although the beating-up-tomato-can phenomenon crops up in slightly different form periodically through the book; sometimes it feels like Jonah is looking for logic where there is none to be found, mocking glaring contradictions in the arguments of Barbra Streisand and Andrew Sullivan.

But The Tyranny of Clichés has plenty of “how come no one ever taught me this” sections, including the surprising revelation that Marie Antoinette’s “let them eat cake” statement, if ever uttered, meant the precise opposite of its perceived meaning today. Then there’s a chapter which ought to be called, “Everything You Think You Know about Witch Trials, the Inquisition, and the Crusades Was Wrong.” I knew The Da Vinci Code was an epic-length crock of [bad word], but here Jonah finds a target really worth his time and wit, the popular culture’s ability to instill beliefs and conclusions that are astonishingly erroneous and distortions of actual historical events.

Jonah’s dismantling of the “wisdom is found in the political center” fetish deserves to be a seminar at journalism conferences for years to come, and when he starts addressing the pledges and claims of President Obama I feel like he’s finally locked on a worthy target. After all, if you’re turning to Barbra Streisand for guidance on wise governance, I think you’re a lost cause. There’s probably nothing we can do for you.

#more#

But even when it feels like Jonah is punching down at a foe that I stopped taking seriously a long time ago, he’s still classic Jonah. For example, I dare you to read the following sentence and not laugh:

  

Saying you’re being empirical, and wielding numbers like so many stage props, doesn’t make you empirical, any more than me wielding a giant hammer and speaking Norwegian makes me Thor.

You’re laughing because you know that upon finishing writing that passage, Jonah got out his authentic replica of Mjolnir, jumped upon The Couch, and bellowed, “Ved Odins skjegg, jeg står athwart historie roper stop!” and smashed a Paul Krugman bobblehead doll.

Finally, it’s worth noting that this “review” is of the work of a man I call a friend, and I find Jonah one of the most unique, enjoyable, and irreplaceable voices in our political world today. Ever since his first reference to TK-421 back in the late 1990s, I’ve felt like this is the guy who gets it! and I am hoping that when he finally hangs up his laptop at the end of a long career, he’s filled an entire shelf on all of our bookshelves.

Rightnation Reviews TOC



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Chris Naron writes:

The only regret I have is that I didn’t buy the dead tree version. I’ve made quite a few converts with Liberal Fascism, and I think I could make even more with TOC since it’s a much easier read. But, I guess there’s always the paperback version coming out later. Still, it’d be nice to have some copies to throw around to friends and colleagues this election year.

In other words, you can’t borrow mine, so go buy it. And you’re all rich, so buy multiple copies.

Oh Those Bold Liberals



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I loved this paragraph from Jeff Shesol’s review of Eric Alterman’s book (on the opposing page from Klein’s review):

The net effect is that of a Pointillist painting, though when you step back from the canvas and squint a little, the dots fail to cohere into a discernible image. As “The Cause” smash-cuts from Henry Wallace to Richard Hofstadter and from Gloria Steinem to Gary Hart, Alterman pauses all too infrequently to reflect on the “cause” — or causes, or ideals — that connects them. This, to be fair, is a challenge, one compounded by liberal schisms and by the nebulousness of much liberal thought; Trilling, as Alterman notes, described liberalism as “a large tendency rather than a concise body of doctrine.” Liberals, quite unlike leftist radicals or conservative ideologues, tend to reject dogma and theory in favor of “bold, persistent experimentation,” as Roosevelt called it, or, put another way, pragmatism grounded in enduring, yet evolving, values. It is hard to dissect a gestalt.

First, if you’ve read either of my books, or about 6 trillion Corner posts of mine, you’d know that this half of my point about liberalism. Liberals aren’t oriented toward their own intellectual history the way conservatives are. This has the result of making them more, not less, dogmatic. Indeed, they are so dogmatic, they can’t see it. They think they’re ideology free.  This is the lie liberals tell themselves and then everyone else: “We’re not ideological, we’re pragmatists!”

Klein and countless other liberals don’t think it’s a lie precisely because they are so dogmatic about their ideological commitments.

But, really, how can it be anything other than an illusion? Where, exactly is the spirit of bold, persistent experimentation in the Democratic Party today? Is it evident when it comes to Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security? How about the role of public sector unions, liberal educational pedagogy or racial preferences. Obama hid behind his deficit reduction commission and then rejected its recommendations. He is an adamant defender of the status quo, as are Nancy Pelosi and her whole crowd.

Some might cite ObamaCare as some grand experiment. That’s plausible, from a certain perspective. But, then again, liberalism “experimentalism” is always bold when it comes to rationales for expanding government.  And if every “experiment” involves expanding government, it’s not really experimentalism, now is it? It’s more like an ideological commitment to keep trying new ways to grow government. On this front, liberals are persistent, at least.

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